Culture is what defines a people. The Philippine culture is what sets Filipinos apart from others, from Americans, Japanese, British, etc. It’s our very own identification mark. Although a number of us may no longer adhere to certain Filipino cultural practices, collectively, we continue to hold on and honor the Filipino culture, and share these practices to our next generations and even to people of other cultures.
While we’re proud to be Filipinos, and proud of our culture, there’s no such thing as a perfect culture. Some of our cultural practices or etiquettes fall short from being laudable. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Attempting to please everyone and avoiding negative remarks.
Filipinos try their best to avoid confrontations. Our non-confrontational attitude can only get us so far when the situation calls for honesty and openness. In some cases, we can get away with indirect communication, too much diplomacy and fake politeness. We tread forward with caution, yet in the process we hurt the other party even more for being untruthful. Filipinos can be very focused at getting everybody on board at pleasing them, but this ultimately impedes decision-making and project completion because we have to admit it – it’s impossible to please everybody.
- Being unable to handle criticisms or negative comments.
Perhaps the very reason why Filipinos don’t want to make negative remarks is because they themselves don’t want to receive criticisms. We Pinoys yearn for praise but usually have a hard time digesting criticisms, even constructive ones and from loving friends at that who has our best interest in mind. It’s humiliating to be disapproved or rejected, true. But often, the only way for us to improve is to know we’ve done wrong or fallen short of expectations. In the same way, we’re wary of people who give too-good-to-true compliments and their intentions for praising us. This could be because we’d like to take every compliment with a grain of salt or we’re just not that confident about our achievements.
- Saying “yes” when they mean “no” or are unsure.
When a Pinoy asks you a question, they would typically ask you again “sure ka nab a?” and again “sure na sure?” and again “final answer?” This can be funny at first, but gets ultimately annoying. We Filipinos have the so-called confrontation phobia. We don’t like to displease our fellow and so we avoid saying no. We tend to say yes or maybe to accommodate someone else’s wishes and avoid conflict, or perhaps for the annoying pleadings to stop. But being tied to a commitment by force have awful outcomes – we end up breaking carelessly done promises and losing integrity. Nevertheless, our inability to say no isn’t necessarily with the intent to deceive, but a dire attempt to please people or avoid confrontation. Filipinos rarely take and give no for an answer, and even when they say yes, the wise move is to give their reply the benefit of the doubt, to ask the a couple of times to make sure they meant what they said the first time.
- Feeling entitled to help and pity because of poverty.
The Philippines is a poor nation. Some 12.1% of the Filipinos have incomes below the food threshold (subsistence or extreme poverty), which means that 12 out of 100 Pinoys don’t have enough food. A simple tour around the metro would unravel the hard truth of our kababayans’ extreme poverty. Poverty everywhere. The Manila Times said we have burgeoning mendicancy on the streets, and although street begging is more rooted in poverty than a culture of mendicancy, it remains a problem until this day. Not only that, some beggars are becoming bolder and nastier, transforming into extortionists by forcefully grabbing food and drinks from oblivious pedestrians and getting back at stingy motorists by scratching their vehicles. What’s worse is syndicates taking advantage of our society’s have-nots and creating an underground industry of mendicancy. While we have laws that prohibit and penalize begging, these laws aren’t enough to keep people specifically children off the streets with their cans or palms stretched out for loose coins.
- Having no sense of urgency and beating around the bush.
We like to chill and take things slow. Why rush, right? Wrong. There are things that need to be taken seriously and with a sense of urgency. There are things that can wait. But for Filipinos in general, everything can wait. Even negotiations and important business discussions, we start off by being late (Filipino time), proceed with casual conversation and getting to know you kind of stuff (as if we have all the time in the world), then for all we know it’s lunch time, so we pause, eat, have our fill. As we proceed with the meeting, we need ice breaker since it’s siesta time (unholy hour). The day ends and we accomplish nothing mainly because we dilly-dally even when the situation calls for hurrying up.
- Feeling the need to be rewarded or bribed for every action.
President Duterte had recently mandated all government offices to cut down processing time of documents. Sadly, red tape (bureaucracy) and bribery are deeply rooted into our culture, I doubt if we will ever flush them out of our system. Bribery is illegal of course, but because of bureaucratic obstacles and delays, we resort to giving kickbacks to lubricate and hasten things. This is also partly related to the Filipinos’ sense of entitlement.
- Gate-crashing or bringing extra guests (uninvited) to a party.
It’s normal for Pinoys to gate-crash parties and events, and for invited guests to bring along an entourage of gate-crashers. When you’re a host, you need to prepare extra food and drinks for these people. It’s expected of you to graciously welcome every guests, invited or otherwise. Now Pinoys are not entirely shameless, they simply aren’t used to exclusive or invitation-only parties, especially when it’s held within the neighborhood. Also, we’re used to verbal invitations, and you know how words spread so fast within the Filipino community. If you want to make your party truly exclusive, hold it in an enclosed or remote venue and specify in the invitations that the event is private.
- Being nosy and curious about other people’s private lives.
Filipinos are curious lots. We like to ask questions, even personal ones, in order to know more about others. This is our way of showing interest and welcoming the person into our fold. Just take the case of Queen of All Media Kris Aquino when she interviewed Michael Buble and Demi Lovato. Kris can be very OA, but Pinoys love her because she can ask questions and blabber on our behalf. Although it’s ordinary for us to ask very personal questions, we might go overboard offending others in the process, especially when they’re caught off guard.
- Needing support from contacts for career advancement.
In the Philippines, it isn’t so much about what you know but who you know. Whether you’re on business negotiation, trying to get a promotion, wanting to enroll in an exclusive school (but fell short of the entrance requirements), etc. – knowing people from high places will surely make things easier. However, remember that this is a give and take relationship. You can’t expect people to help you without them getting something in return. Connections are very critical if you are to go up the ladder of success, and if you don’t know someone from the inside to help you, giving people small gifts (bribes) may help.
- Being too relaxed about time and being late often.
Filipinos are relaxed about time, maybe too relaxed that we end up disrespecting other people’s time and feelings and being unable to finish tasks on time. Because of our culture of procrastination, we now have the so-called “Filipino time” and the “manana habit” – hallmarks of how much we love tarrying and delaying. Oh, it’s so Filipino to be late or to forget appointments, but it’s also embarrassing. For us, being punctual is optional, even during important meetings and appointments.
This is not to tarnish the Filipino culture or an attempt to dissuade folks from adhering to our own practices. It’s a wakeup call for us that there are some things we do collectively as a people that are less than admirable. By acknowledging these bad etiquettes (i.e. tardiness) and by fine-tuning them accordingly (i.e. coming on time), we’re not changing our identity, but improving it.
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